8 Incarnations of Ganesha
The stories and legends of Lord Ganesha are referred in many pauranic texts out of which two Puranas viz. Ganesha Purana and Mudgala Purana (Upa Puranas) are totally dedicated to Lord Ganesha. Most people do not know that Lord Ganesh had taken eight different avatars or incarnations from time to time. These incarnations are duly mentioned in religious scripture Mudgala Purana (Sanskrit:मुद्गल पुराणम्;).
Lord Ganesh took these avatars to conquer eight weaknesses of human beings i.e. arrogance, ego, desire, anger, greed, delusion, inebriation and jealousy.
Let’s have a look at these eight incarnations:
Vakratunda means (twisted trunk). This was the first incarnation. The legend goes like this –
A demon named Matsara was born out of the Pramaada (Heedlessness) of Indra, the king of Gods. This demon, after performing severe penance, pleased the Lord Shiva and obtained the boon of fearlessness from Him. After this, he went, along with his two sons ‘Sundarpriya’ and ‘Vishaypriya’, to conquer the three worlds and was crowned as the king of Asuras by their preceptor Sukracharya. He even conquered the Lord Shiva when defeated gods went and prayed to Lord Shiva for protection. Lord Shiva was bound by his own boon.
When gods left the last hope, Lord Dattatreya came for their rescue. He advised the gods to invoke the grace of Lord Vakratunda and gave them the secret of the monosyllable mantra Gam. All the gods including Shiva did penance accordingly and at last Lord Vakratunda appeared and assured them that he would take care of the demon. Lord killed his two sons and terrified Matsarasura surrendered to him and asked for the forgiveness. The Lord forgave him, and he become the devotee of Lord Ganesh. Lord restored the lost glory and kingdoms of all in the three worlds.
Hence, in this avatar, Ganesh is the destroyer of jealousy in the form of Matsarasura. His vehicle is lion.
As the name suggests, this avatar of Lord Ganesh is the one with a single tusk. Maharshi Chyavan produced Son ‘Mad’ from his powers. He was taught by Asuracharya Shukracharya, with his permission, he started harming the gods even Lord Shiva. Finally, all the Gods prayed to Lord Ganesha and he took the avatar of Ekdant with four arms, one tusk, and a huge belly with an elephant head, and defeated the Madasur by crushing his arrogance.
He was considered as an embodiment of arrogance. Ganesh’s vahana in this avatar is a mouse.
Legend says when Kartikeya killed the Tarakasura, Shukracharya created another demon, Mohasura, the demon of delusion and confusion. Mohasura was a devotee of the sun god and dominated the three worlds. All the deities were terrified of him and decided to worship Lord Ganesha who was pleased with their devotion and decided to fight against the demon. However, on the advice of Lord Vishnu Mohasura did not fight and surrendered to Mahodara. Later, the demon became a devotee of the Lord. In this avatar, Ganesh’s mount was a mouse.
Once Kuber went to Kailasha to visit Shiva, there he sees Parvati and fantacize her. By this he gave the birth to Lobhasur. On the suggestion from Shukracharya, he started meditating Lord Shiva to please him, Shiva pleased and gave him the blessing of being ‘fearless’. Having blessed by Shiva he looked forward to rule the three worlds. Even Shiva had to vacate Kailasha. Finally, all the deities prayed to Ganesha for rescue. The fourth incarnation of the Ganesh is Gajanana, which means the Lord with an elephant head. An elephant head on a human body is a unique characteristic of Ganesh. In this incarnation the deity defeated Lobhasura, son of Lord Kuber and demon of greed. His vahana was a mouse.
During Samundarmanthan Lord Vishnu had taken the form of Mohini, Lord Shiva was struck with her beauty. Seeing this Vishnu immediately gave up the avatar which made Lord Shiva angry and out of his anger a terrible demon name Krodhasura was born. He pleased Lord Sun and Sun blessed him with three world. He started victimizing deities in order to rule the universe. Then Lord Ganesh incarnated into this avatar to eradicate the demon of anger, Krodhasura. His vahana was the divine mouse, Krauncha.
Lord Vishnu had destroyed Jalandhar by taking advantage of his wife Vrinda, in the process Vrinda gave birth to a demon named ‘Kamasura’ who meditated to please Lord Shiva to ask for ruler ship on Triloka. Once blessed, he started destroying other deities. Deities prayed to Lord Ganesha for help. Ganesha incarnated as Vikata and subdued the demon of desire, Kamasura. In this form too the Lord possesses the body of a human being and head of an elephant. A divine peacock serves as Ganesh’s vahana in this incarnation.
Legend goes like this: once Maa Parvati, while talking to her friends, laughed aloud, this caused the birth of full male called ‘Mam’ (mamta=attachment). He immediately went to the Jungle for meditation where he met ‘Shambrasura’ who taught him evil powers and married him to his daughter Mohini. Shambrasura asked him to meditate to Lord Ganesha to please him and ask for lordship on entire universe. Lord granted him many such powers which he started using against the deities with the permission of Shukracharya.
Then deities prayed to Ganesh for protection, Ganesha incarnated as ‘Vighnaraja’ and killed the demon of attachment, Mamasur, also known as Mamtasur. This incarnation is known as the remover of obstacles. In this avatar his vahana was Sheshnaag.
Once Brahma appointed Surya as ruler of Karma Rajya. This gave Surya the ego. Due to this ego, once his sneeze gave the birth of asura, his name was Aham. He made Shukracharya his Guru and renamed himself as ‘Ahantasura’. He meditated to Lord Ganesha and pleased him, Lord blessed him with powers.
After this he became fearless and started victimizing other Gods. Tired of this, all the deities meditated upon Lord Ganesh for salvation, Lord appeared in the form of Dhoomravarna as elephant headed god, his vahana was mouse. He defeated Ahamkarasur by crushing his self-infatuation. His mount in this particular incarnation was also a mouse.